| Brunch |

The Brunch Chronicles: TJ's Proves Seafood Brunch Doesn't Have to Be an Expensive Indulgence

Keep Dallas Observer Free
I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Dallas and help keep the future of Dallas Observer free.

Seafood may not immediately come to mind when we think of brunch menus, but more and more local menus are incorporating seafood beyond a bagel with lox. There are oysters at Boulevardier and catfish po’boys at Ida Claire, for instance. And no place embraces this more than TJ’s Seafood.

The original TJ’s opened in 1989, making this fishmonger a veritable institution in baby-faced Dallas. After Jon Alexis took over the shop for his parents, he relocated the original TJ's, opened a new one in Oak Lawn and turned them both into restaurants with a fish counter, instead of the other way around.

The Royal Lane location is housed in a strip mall, which doesn’t exactly encourage a nautical state of mind. But all that is forgotten inside, where a stately but serene dining room awaits. From light fixtures suspended by thick, twisting rope to sea foam green bench seats to pine-colored chairs, the room is one great maritime spa.

The menu ranges from the everyday (banana nut bread pancakes, $10) to the extravagant, with a $140 Siberian sevruga caviar service and a $115 seafood tower. Most of the dishes fall somewhere in between, necessitating disposable income but not a yacht’s worth of a credit line. Drinks, too, can be procured for a reasonable price — $5 gets a refreshing thyme-infused sangria, white cranberry mimosa or bloody mary oyster shooter.

Popular seafood items dot the menu: shrimp cocktail, charbroiled oysters spiked with lime crema, fresh tuna salad, fish tacos and grilled catch of the day. The Benedict follows suit with the addition of lump crab, while another classic gets the in-house treatment.

At our server's suggestion, we ordered the hickory and alder salmon bagel. The salmon is smoked on site and has a lovely, light perfume of smoke and a texture that is closer to baked salmon than its slick, commercially smoked equivalent. If only there had been more of it — the ratio of fish to cream cheese smear, sliced tomato and red onion was skewed in favor of the fixings, when all you really wanted was that salmon.

A side of TJ's chowder featured not just tender, sweet clams but bits of shrimp, too. The seafood was bathed in a creamy, comforting and mellow broth, as delicious as it was simple. 

Hungry for something on the more decadent and less familiar side? The honey butter Maine lobster fritters ($25) are a mouthful, both linguistically and in reality. Two tennis-ball sized fritters arrived at our table, their caramel-colored coatings glistening with molten honey butter. They're awkward looking — two balls on a plate hardly awaken the visual senses. But things get more interesting when the fritters are plied open to reveal a bounty of lump lobster. Surprisingly large pieces of buttery meat were held in place by a buttermilk batter that played a blessedly inconspicuous role, there simply to hold the treasured meat together in a feat of carbohydrate engineering. The honey butter tried to gild the lily but came off as out of place — better to let the already sweet lobster speak for itself. 

Seafood in Dallas can be an expensive enterprise, but TJ's fresh seafood offerings at brunch don't have to cost as much as a car payment. Then again, a $115 seafood tower does sound pretty good after a couple bloody marys. 

TJ's Seafood, 6025 Royal Lane 

Keep the Dallas Observer Free... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Dallas with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.


Join the Observer community and help support independent local journalism in Dallas.


Join the Observer community and help support independent local journalism in Dallas.